Basic Positions and What I Find Difficult About Them

For the descriptions of the following ballet positions, I wanted to get the ‘official word’ and not just my interpretation of them. I am, after all, a beginner, and I would’t want to say what I thought was correct, as opposed to what is actually correct! The descriptions are reproduced from the ABT website…

First position (Première position)
In this position the feet form one line, heels touching one another.
‘I find that my thumbs stick up when in first position and I have difficulty relaxing the hands, but keeping a good line. I also tend to shrug my shoulders, and the shoulders are meant to be down and relaxed.’

Second position (Seconde position)
The feet are on the same line but with a distance of about one foot between the heels.
‘Either my feet are too close together or they’re too wide apart. Particularly if I leap into this position. Same shoulder and hand issue in second position as I have in first.’

Third position (Troisième position)
In the third position one foot is in front of the other, heels touching the middle of the other foot.
‘This position isn’t too bad (other than hands and shoulders), but I need to work on my turnout in third. Much more difficult to get good turnout when your feet are in front of each other, as opposed to next to each as in first and second positions.’

Fourth position (Quatrième position)
In the fourth position the placement of the feet is similar to that in the third position, the feet being parallel and separated by the length of one foot. This is the classical fourth position but it may also be done with the feet in the first position, only separated by the space of one foot. The former is known as quatrième position croisée (crossed fourth position), while the latter is called quatrième position ouverte (open fourth position). Today quatrième position croisée is done with the feet placed as in the fifth position, parallel and separated by the length of one foot, instead of the third position.
‘Same issues with hands and shoulders as in first and second position. Add to this elevated arms and you’re into a whole new territory of ‘no idea what I’m doing with my hands’.’

Fifth position (Cinquième position)
In the fifth position, Cecchetti method, the feet are crossed so that the first joint of the big toe shows beyond either heel. In the French and Russian Schools the feet are completely crossed so that the heel of the front foot touches the toe of the back foot and vice versa.
‘I like this ballet position, as it’s so tough to get right. Arms are elevated above your head and I love doing this position when I’m in demo-pointe. Still incredibly tough, but a cool ballet position. Makes you look and feel like a proper dancer!’